Outdoor enthusiasts have a new reason to visit Hanging Rock State Park this spring following the announcement this week of a new hiking challenge designed to be family friendly and highlight four of the park’s five waterfalls.
The park, Friends of Sauratown Mountains and the Stokes County Arts Council will be hosting Friends, Family and Falls on April 18 and organizers say the event is loosely modeled after the hugely successful Reach the Peaks challenge held every fall.
“We are trying to create a more family friendly event,” said Park Superintendent Robin Riddlebarger. “Reach the Peaks is more physically challenging, but this event will be accessible to young people and kids.”
She said organizers are still working on some of the details for the event, but said the hiking course for the day had been set.
“It will start with a walk to the Upper Cascades,” said Riddlebarger. “Then participants will hike down Indian Creek Trail to Hidden Falls and Window Falls and then continue down Indian Creek Trail until you are about halfway down the mountain. Then the path will veer off of the trail and go towards the group camping area and go down CC Camp Road and Hall Road to the trail to the Lower Cascades.”
She said the entire hike to the four waterfalls will be about four miles and noted that she hopes most participants will chose to hike back up the mountain to the finish line.
“We are also planning on having a shuttle service from Lower Cascades in case there are people who are too tired to make the trip back,” said Riddlebarger.
Like the Reach the Peak and Polar Plunge challenge activities, participants will pay an entry fee to participate in the event and will receive a special waterfall patch and admittance to an all you can eat cook out at the finish line in return.
Focus on photography
The Friends, Family and Falls event will also encourage participants to take pictures during the journey to the four falls.
“We wanted to have more of an arts focus at this event so we have recruited some local talented photographers to help,” said Riddlebarger. “At each waterfall there will be a professional photographer to give you ideas on how to take a good picture and offer basic photography tips.”
She said hikers would be encouraged to take pictures through the entire hike to submit to a two-pronged photography competition. Entries from the event can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“They can enter in four different categories: people, flora, falls and free choice,” said Riddlebarger. She said the professional photographers participating in the event would pick a first and second place photograph in each category, noting that the winners would be displayed in the visitor center gallery later this summer. The winners will also be given a Stokes County themed gift basket. “The professional photographers will also pick the top 25 pictures in each category and we will put those up on a Facebook page where the public can vote on the People’s Choice. Those winners will be displayed in the gallery as well.”
Patches created by local students
Riddlebarger said hikers who complete the challenge will receive a special waterfall patch designed by students at North Stokes High School.
“In January, I went up to the school and talked to the arts class about the five overlooks challenge and what that is and how we want to do one for waterfalls,” she said. She asked the students to create a waterfalls based painting and parkstaff and Friends, Family and Falls organizers picked two winning entries by Samantha Hardin and Leah Pitt. “I was just tickled that so many kids decided to enter. We will be displaying all of the entries in the visitor’s center during the challenge.”
One of the winning entries is being used as the basis for the patch which will be given to hikers on April 18. The second winner will also be used to create a patch which can be purchased by visitors to the park who complete the waterfall challenge on other days of the year.
“Any day of the year you can come up to the visitor’s center and get a time sheet and write down your time as reach each of the falls,” explained Riddlebarger. “When you come back and bring us your sheet you can buy the waterfall patch.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.